The South Indian city of Chennai has very few standalone high-end restaurants, as this has largely been the monopoly of five-star hotels. Located in the posh and tranquil neighbourhood of Poes Garden, the Chef’s Table is an exclusive 60-seater restaurant serving a finely crafted upscale menu. Not one for labels, its owner and newly anointed Chef de Cuisine, Madhulika Sundaram is reluctant to pin her assorted menu down to a specific cuisine. Possibly a reflection of her globetrotting education – from Institut Villa Pierrefeu, a finishing school in Glion/Switzerland to Le Cordon Bleu in London/UK and more recently, the Ballymalloe Cookery School in Cork/Ireland – Sundaram established this dream venture with a firm belief of ‘being true to the cuisine.’ This implies that the master chef and not the customers decide the menu: dishes are not customised to customers’ preferences, and the service staffs are expected to explain this to the customers without offending them. However, every dish coming out of the see-through kitchen, where the master chef herself supervises her personally trained team of chefs is a culinary delight. True to its name, the restaurant also boasts an actual chef’s table – a teppanyaki grill, which seats five to eight diners. The master chef will herself cook the meal in front of the diners at the chef’s table, with the menu and ingredients chosen by the diners in advance. While the ingredients aren’t all organic, quite a few are either grown locally or imported. If a particular ingredient is unavailable in the market, the dish is taken off the menu, as the master chef doesn’t believe in substitutions.
After two-and-a-half years of renovation, a space that was once a residential parking garage now sports a modern and minimalist look with black, grey and white décor. The wooden flooring, beige chairs and unadorned tables provide a refreshing and unique dining experience while ensuring that food is the primary focus. When considering how to light such a restaurant, it was important to consider what mood the master chef wanted to create and communicate. The master chef was very clear from the beginning that lighting should not detract from the overall dining experience while creating an environment where diners will want to come back again and again. As light contributes to the other senses of taste, touch, sound, and smell in such culinary environments, the factors taken into consideration while designing the lighting were: the types of food being served, the outfits worn by the chefs, the colours of the restaurant interior, the formality the establishment, and the hours of operation.
Lighting is used to evoke the purpose of this restaurant right from the entrance walkway. Miniature and discreet 1W LED 3000K surface- and wall-mounted downlights integrated with the pergola and the boundary wall-columns respectively, provide an elegantly warm and subtle illumination while highlighting the architectural features. An additional layer of functional illumination is provided using low-height 3W LED 4000K wall-mounted floor washers to demarcate the pathway and guide diners towards the restaurant main entrance. The subtle use of two different colour temperatures creates an experiential journey. The main entrance and sign board is highlighted with surface-mounted 10W LED cylindrical downlights. The lush green plantations around the restaurant property are subtly illuminated using discreet 5.5W LED MR16 spike-mounted mini-projectors.
Creating different moods throughout the different spaces within the restaurant were key in catering to a larger customer base. Diners are greeted with a bar counter upon entering, which has the backdrop of framed photographs illuminated with 10W LED 3000K track-mounted spotlights. The counter itself is illuminated with bare LED filament lamps of different sizes and wattages to underline this modern look. The main dining areas being the most important part of a restaurant are provided with uniform, comfortable, and bright lighting for customer’s to read their menus. Every table is accentuated with a bare suspended LED filament lamp, while general illumination is provided with the same 10W LED cylindrical downlights that are either surface-mounted or suspended from the ceiling. Peripheral accentuation is provided using 10W LED ceiling-recessed downlights and 3W LED wall-mounted up-downlights.
As the actual chef’s table is the focal point of this restaurant, directing diners’ eyes towards it was key. The actual chef’s table is segregated from the remaining areas of the restaurant and diners have a first glimpse of it from a window adjoining the main entrance. Although similar luminaires characteristics are maintained throughout the restaurant, the lighting for the chef’s table is brighter than the ambient lighting in the remaining areas so as to make it stand out.
Chef’s Table offers a menu that is exotic as well as sublime, and lighting only adds to this unique culinary environment. Lighting is designed to be easy on the eyes and evoke a relaxed mood for the diners who like to linger, unwind and take their time to eat, which in turn could make them spend more money since they aren’t in a rush to leave. One more unique quality about this restaurant is that this could probably be the first fine-dining restaurant in Chennai with a total LED-lighting solution!
Photo Credits: Gowtham Raj
Project details –
Location – Chennai, India
Client – Madhulika Sundaram
Architecture – Edifice
Lighting design – Lighting Research & Design
Luminaire supply – Gojis Lifestyle
Battens – ABBY Aqua 30W
Inground uplights – ABBY Moonwalker 1W LED
Spike-mounted projectors – LEDS-C4 Hubble 5.5W MR-16 LED
Suspended downlights – ABBY Ovo 10W LED
Surface-mounted downlights – ABBY Ovo 10W LED
Surface-mounted downlights (Exterior) – ABBY Dot D 1W LED
Recessed downlights – ABBY Aqua Romeo 10W LED
Track spotlights – ABBY Ovo 10W LED
Wall-mounted downlights (Exterior) – LEDOS OD-424 1W LED
Wall-mounted floor-washers (Exterior) – LEDS-C4 Kossel 3.3W LED
Wall-mounted up-downlights – LEDS-C4 Jet Wall 3W LED
Decorative pendants – Custom with LED filament lamps
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